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August 3, 2015

Pet Age spoke with Michael Edley, principal officer at Pet Asylum, a family store located in Howell, N.J. about the history of the store, aquatic customer feedback and advice he has for stores just starting to dabble in aquatics.

Rebekah Harrison: Can you tell me a little about the history of Pet Asylum?

Michael Edley: Pet Asylum is a family-run, full-line pet store. The original owners had the name Petsmart before the corporation but lost the battle to keep it in court. That is when Pet Asylum, ‘for people crazy about their pets’ was created and trademarked. Then in 1999, the original partners decided the pet industry was not for them and decided to sell.

Michele Edley and I were both very passionate animal lovers and advocates. The opportunity arose to purchase a defunct pet store and leave our jobs to go into business. We would use our passion and drive to create a new cutting edge business model for the store which would build a thriving business. Michele and I put our life savings into this new opportunity and Pet Asylum was reborn.

With the business now underway a life changing event happened. Michele was diagnosed with breast cancer with a poor prognosis. Instead of giving up or giving in, we decided to push forward and find a way to overcome this obstacle. In addition to traditional medicine, we began to investigate alternative healing therapies. This included herbs, vitamins, nutrition, energy and sound healing, just to name a few.

Now, 13 years later Michele has remained in remission. Pet Asylum is a community staple with two locations and a vested proprietary brand of natural and holistic pet food.

Rebekah: Can you tell me about your aquatic section? How is it set up?

Michael: Our aquatics department has fresh, cold water, salt and brackish sections. Several times a month, we handpick our fish from local suppliers to ensure only top quality stock and selection. When the Oceanic custom tank division was around, they were contracted to come into Pet Asylum and custom build our several massive aquarium banks. We have units that have everything from goldfish, koi and community dwellers to very unique, hard to find fish from around the world.

Rebekah: What was the inspiration behind setting up your aquatics section?

Michael: We have always loved aquatics and Michele’s brother, Gary Antonelli being a marine biologist made it an easy decision to specialize in aquatics. We saw a need to provide a place that the customer could get accurate information on setting up and maintaining aquariums that was not being filled.

Rebekah: What is the feedback from customers about the aquatic section?

Michael: Customers love the tranquil ambiance of aquariums. Even those without tanks seem to be drawn into that department just to look. Sometimes that’s the first step to making them appreciate the hobby and decided to start up a tank of their own.

Rebekah: Any advice to retailers just starting to set up an aquatic section in their store?

Michael: My advice to retailers starting up an aquatic department would be to make sure you find a quality supplier and understand your fish customer in the market you’re in. If there are a lot of customers in apartments and condos maybe desktop aquariums or betta set ups will fit their living environment better. If there are many larger homes with space, the sky is the limit.

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